Anemi Hotel, Folegandros, Greece

Get away from it all to savour ouzo-soaked days at this design-savvy island hideout – minus the party crowds of neighbouring isles

Folegandros, meaning "iron hard", ought to be sung to the tune of Gaga's Alejandro - but, be warned: you won't be able to unhear it. Folegandros, too, gets under your skin. On this lesser-visited island in the southern Cyclades, near Milos and Santorini, bougie accommodation is hard to come by, which is part of its appeal, of course, against the noise and glare of neighbouring Mykonos. Anemi Hotel is a rare gem.

Being a little further from Athens than some of the busier Greek islands, getting here is all part of the adventure: think heartbreaking island cruise-bys, deep sapphire seas and sun-warmed decks on the slower, eight-hour ferry crossing from Piraeus (recommended: you can't go outside on the speedier vessels).


Novelty headboards aside (did you get an abstract knife or a tea towel fluttering in the wind?), the design throughout is streamlined and low-key. The classic blue-white sentiments of Greek-Cycladic architecture are echoed in the infinity pool and forever-sapphire sky. Furnishings are pared down and in a muted palette: white, yellow and the occasional pale marigold. Sister hotel AthensWas, in the capital, is much more severely and seductively a design hotel, but the staggered villas and stripped-back approach is more than appropriate in the volcanic and moody setting of this island. Deluxe or suite, mountain- or ocean-facing, it's your choice, but every room is spacious, spotless and darlingly-equipped. On our visit, there was a welcome gift of red pepper cheesecake and bottles of Metaxa, while the well-curated minibar includes the likes of kale chips.

What's for breakfast?

Eggs done every which way (go for the Greek omelette), cheese and fruit plates and other small tapas-sized options you can order individually, as you fancy. The pancakes are highly recommended. This waste-conscious, clean and dainty approach is brilliant; it also means that your morning meal is free of break(fast)-dancing flies and throwaways.

What about lunch and dinner?

A strangely satisfying club sandwich can be found on the poolside menu, to either line the tum before a boozy boat tour or cure a raki hangover.

Is there a bar?

The poolside bar is cute and the waiters will whip up anything off-menu, including a Tequila Espresso Martini, which my party found particularly moreish after a long day in the sun. Local beers and wines are reasonably priced, but don't expect a natural wine or craft beer selection. My tipple of the trip was anise-heavy ouzo (much like pastis) and water with lots of ice, keeping me hydrated in soaring temperatures but nicely refreshed and supporting local longstanding ouzeries. Yes, that's a word. Just be sure not to forget the aqua component, and don't drink it flaming like the sambuca of your youth.

Things I should know...

Though sleepy, Folegandros is strange, heavenly, vast and well worth exploring - a hire car or quad is a great idea here. Scope out Ibiza-like bars and restaurants in bustling Chora, which comes alive at night. Make reservations at the uber-impressive Tuk Tuk Thai Spirit House, which gets our vote for its softly lit lanterns, friendly staff, banging soundtrack and excellent food, not to mention its totally off-the-wall spicy cocktails. Preface twinkly romantic nights with a zigzagged sunset climb up to the Virgin Mary Church, which clings to the cliffs and, at dusk, looks like a floating apparition. Set aside a day to lounge on Agios Nikolaos beach and feast on catch of the day and taramasalata at Pasithea. Get off the beaten track in your chosen vehicle and find secret coves and even a rumoured haunted house...

Within a short walk I will find…

Folegandros Port, and Spiros from, with his dinky boat Cliffhanger - if you book him, that is. From there, this smiley, bespectacled captain will take you on a stunning tour of Folegandros' coves and deserted beaches. The sheer drama of the island's jutting heights is quite unique, even in the Cyclades, and by small boat you can reach even its more exclusive and freaky-good spots. Anticipate marbled beaches with crashing turquoise waves, limestone cliffs dropping down to reflective emerald waters and a dusky rose-lavender sunset underneath the famous church, before nightfall deems small-vessel travel dangerous.

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